Sound therapy sometimes referred to as acoustic therapy is a wide term that is used in various ways, depending on the individual clinician. Generally, sound therapy means the use of external/augmented sound to make the ringing in the ear caused by tinnitus less disturbing. It is used to alter the patient’s reaction and perception of tinnitus. Although, sound therapies do not cure tinnitus just like other treatments, but may greatly reduce the intensity of the condition and make it very easy to live with. It was developed as a distraction for people with the condition. People experiencing tinnitus often realize that it is more bothersome in a quiet environment, for example at night and listening to other sounds can make it less noticeable. Sound therapy machines or tinnitus Maskers, produces a variety of sounds to reduce the perception of buzzing and ringing in the ears to help manage the condition. Many people with this condition use them during sleep, relaxation, and meditation. Below is a list of the types of sound therapy products.
Sound Masking Devices/Environmental Enrichment Devices
These are machines or apps that offer generic background noise. It could either be pink noise or white noise, nature sounds or other subtle sounds. The sound produced by these machines is capable of masking the patient’s perception of tinnitus partially or fully, providing relaxation, comfort, and relief from the condition. The traditional sound masker is a single function bedside or tabletop device with different sound options. However, devices such as PCs and mobiles, capable of producing sound may be used for masking.
Hearing aids are classified as a type of sound therapy because they increase the volume of external noise to a level that it covers the ringing in the ear and make it difficult to perceive tinnitus and allows the brain to focus on the ambient or outside noise.
While general sound devices offer a comprehensive sound list, Lot of medical-grade devices provide custom sounds that are very effective for the patient and his/her condition. These machines produce steady sounds or special notched-music in which certain tones and frequencies are emphasized, often at a level slightly perceivable by the patient. The function of these sounds depends on the specific product.
This simply means a combination of two or more sound therapies. Recent models of hearing aids are now equipped with sound generation technology that produces different sounds including white noise or customized sounds to tinnitus patients on a consistent basis. These devices combine the benefit derived from using a hearing aid and other acoustic therapies and are best for patients with measurable hearing loss. Additionally, the portable nature of these devices provides consistent use and benefit throughout the day.
The noise produced by the sound therapy machine is helpful in several ways which are:
- Masking: It helps to cover some of the sounds in your ear.
- Distraction: The distraction created can take your attention off the sound.
- Habituation: Consistently hearing this noise can make the brain treat the ringing in the ear (tinnitus) a less important sound that should be consciously ignored.
- Neuromodulation: To normalize or minimize the neural activity that could be the cause of tinnitus.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Sound Therapy Machine
Type of sounds
Each machine comes with own sounds, it could be white noise, nature or music or combination of many other sounds. Sound selection is a personal choice and sometimes depends on your doctor’s prescription. You can decide to purchase a machine that comes with several sound options if you are unsure what sound works best for you.
With this feature, you can adjust the frequency or pitch of the sound. Matching on increasing the tone or sound of your machine to your tinnitus can be more effective in masking the ringing in your ears.
Stationary or Portable
You do not want to purchase a stationary machine if your tinnitus occurs at different times of the day, it is preferable to buy a machine that would be easy to throw in your bag and take with you. Consider a stationary machine if your tinnitus occurs in the night while trying to sleep.